Minnesota's stately Gustavus Adolphus College wanted to monitor its own steam and electricity usage, but a single electricity meter on campus, not to mention a natural disaster, made that an ambitious goal.

Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) is a private, four-year, liberal arts founded in 1862 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants. Named for Swedish King Gustav II Adolf, the college is an academic home to more than 2,400 full-time students from 42 states and 26 countries.

The college, located about an hour south of the Twin Cities, was looking to upgrade its physical plant and related energy facilities. Then last spring, in the middle of the planning process, the college was severely damaged by a tornado. The unexpected disaster challenged the facilities staff to press on with their energy improvements despite widespread property damage.

The result was a solution that both met the college's original ambition while preparing for the eventual arrival of electricity deregulation.

The Challenge

Gustavus Adolphus wanted to be able to monitor and analyze the electricity and steam usage in each of its 28 major campus buildings. However, the entire campus had only one central electricity meter and one central steam meter.

The college needed to submeter each of the buildings and bring the data to one central location. The goal was to provide an efficient, centralized monitoring system that would allow the physical plant manager to:

  • Detect and pinpoint energy usage anomalies, to be able to correct them, and avoid the waste of energy;
  • Apply benchmarks for certain types of buildings in order to adopt energy conservation measures; and
  • Manage loads to stay under peak consumption thresholds in order to reduce costs.

Future goals included having the information tools to shop the deregulated energy market for the best rates.

Gustavus Adolphus needed a solution that would use its existing fiberoptic local area network (LAN) communications infrastructure and would not require extensive new wiring. Specifically, it needed a solution that would be effective in a multibuilding environment where control points were widely dispersed. The college also needed a guarantee of expandability to be able to accommodate additional buildings in the future.

In the execution of its comprehensive upgrade plan, which now included a massive tornado-recovery reconstruction project, Gustavus Adolphus College entrusted cfar (Kennar, LA), an experienced energy management and system integrator firm, to find the best solution. To provide key technical viability for the project, cfar turned to Coactive Networks (Sausalito, CA), a provider of open solutions for connecting control systems to enterprise networks and the Internet.

The Solution

The college and cfar decided to install Coactive's router products at each of the 28 buildings, allowing the existing "LonWorks" control points to be integrated with the campus-wide LAN and ultimately routed to a single host personal computer (PC) console. From this central location, Gustavus Adolphus facilities staff can monitor, analyze, and evaluate real-time energy data and control functioning in all buildings.

As part of the manufacturer's "IOConnect" architecture, these products turned out to provide a reliable, embedded, distributed solution to integrating networking technologies on both the control and data-networking sides of the system, according to those involved.

In particular, cfar's design partner Mike Kasmarik noted that this strategy, "provides an excellent means of moving energy management data over an existing Ethernet network. It negates the need to run another network. And it hugely expands the technical viability of an energy management system, making it possible to extend beyond a single building. In fact, it allows you to utilize the Internet, so distance is no longer a factor."

Future uses of the Gustavus Adolphus system might include use-based billing of individual departments, accepting downloaded variable-rate schedules, aggregating power purchases with affiliated colleges, accessing energy pricing and/or availability information, and even the ability to make online power purchases - all via the Internet, from anywhere on the network. ES